backward, backwards
1. For the adverb, both forms are in use, although backward is somewhat more common in AmE and backwards in BrE:

• Talk ran backward from the events of the morning —A. Munro, CanE 1987

• I walked backward to look at her in the sun —E. L. Doctorow, AmE 1989

• Not knowing where he was, and trying to work his way backwards —R. Cobb, BrE 1985.

In the fixed expressions bend (or lean) over backwards, backwards and forwards, and to know backwards, backward is only found occasionally outside AmE:

• He'll bend over backwards to please a client —M. Bail, AusE 1975

• An eclectic collector…, he knows the showrooms backwards. —Financial Times, 1983

• The door kept swinging backwards and forwards —Anita Brookner, 1984

• From the study above them…came the sound of footsteps moving backwards and forwards across the floor —R. Border, 1991

• They move backward and forward between denial and anger and depression, unable to break out of the circle of despair —G. Carmichael, 1991.

2. For the adjective, the correct form in standard English is backward:

• He watched her walking away without a backward glance. —R. Sutcliff, 1954

• Getting involved with the blind in any way seemed like a backward step —Ved Mehta, 1987.

3. In addition to the directional meanings, backward has developed the sense ‘slow to learn’,’ (applied to children). This is now often considered offensive and should be replaced by more neutral and considerate terms such as having learning difficulties, cumbersome though these tend to be.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • backwards — 1510s, from BACKWARD (Cf. backward) with adverbial genitive. Figurative phrase bend over backwards is recorded from 1901 …   Etymology dictionary

  • backwards — [bak′wərdz] adv. BACKWARD * * * …   Universalium

  • backwards — [bak′wərdz] adv. BACKWARD …   English World dictionary

  • Backwards — This article is about the novel by Grant Naylor. For a definition of the word backwards , see the Wiktionary entry [ backwards] . For the Red Dwarf episode, see Backwards (Red Dwarf episode). Infobox Book |… …   Wikipedia

  • backwards — [[t]bæ̱kwə(r)dz[/t]] (in AM, use backward) 1) ADV: ADV after v If you move or look backwards, you move or look in the direction that your back is facing. The diver flipped over backwards into the water... He took two steps backward... Bess… …   English dictionary

  • backwards */*/ — UK [ˈbækwə(r)dz] / US [ˈbækwərdz] adjective, adverb Summary: Backwards can be used in the following ways: as an adverb: I stepped backwards. more rarely as an adjective: a backwards step 1) if you move or look backwards, you move or look in the… …   English dictionary

  • backwards — back|wards S2 [ˈbækwədz US wərdz] adv also backward [ wəd US wərd] AmE 1.) in the direction that is behind you ≠ ↑forwards ▪ Hannah took a step backward. ▪ She pushed me and I fell backwards into the chair. 2.) towards the beginning or the past ≠ …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • backwards — adv. 1 away from one s front (lean backwards; look backwards). 2 a with the back foremost (walk backwards). b in reverse of the usual way (count backwards; spell backwards). 3 a into a worse state (new policies are taking us backwards). b into… …   Useful english dictionary

  • backwards —    The notion that walking backwards is unlucky was occasionally noted in the mid 19th century from the Lancashire/ Yorkshire area: [Lancashire] children are frequently cautioned by their parents not to walk backwards when going on an errand; it… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • backwards*/ — [ˈbækwədz] adv 1) in the direction that is behind you The car rolled backwards down the hill.[/ex] 2) in the opposite way or order from usual Count backwards from ten to one.[/ex] Your skirt is on backwards.[/ex] 3) towards a time in the past We… …   Dictionary for writing and speaking English

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